Tame the Email Beast…As A School

Aug 21, 2013

help emailEmail. It’s a big deal. It’s slowly drowning us, one little inbox gift at a time.

Okay, sorry to sound so morose, but I consistently hear from teachers and leaders that email is a HUGE deal (read: pain). We’ve written before about how individuals can Take Back the Inbox, but this post is dedicated to ideas for tackling the problem as a school community.

We recently spoke with Noah G., a principal in the Bronx who supervises 67 staff members. He’s got great plans to share and develop norms around written communication with his team, and then provide clear training on how to use them—starting with himself!

Here’s how Noah broke it down for us:

  • Determine the reason for tackling the problem

There were a few reasons Noah decided to take on Email in his second year as principal. He noted how much of teaching is a performance profession, in that it’s totally exhausting and you are “on” at every moment. All duties and responsibilities outside of actually teaching kids have to be super-streamlined so tired teachers don’t have more to do.

Noah also acknowledged that his school didn’t have a system in place last year, resulting in a culture where email was overused and misused. Because he himself didn’t attack his email with intention, his inbox could sometimes rule him.

  • Seek input and investment

Noah plans to start by sharing a draft of communication norms with his school’s leadership team and some returning staff. He notes that, “It starts with us because we model everything.”

  • Circulate draft

 After sharing an initial draft with his team, he plans to share a full draft with his entire staff at a September PD.

  •  Train on the norms and remind why

Noah plans to dedicate an hour of professional development time for input, practice and refining of the norms. For example, he imagines training on effective subject lines, reasonable response times, and what and when he expects people to check. Most important, Noah plans to constantly emphasize the why. This way, the new norms and rules remain grounded in purpose.

  • Maintain and revise

Noah plans to check in on how things are going in the late fall, asking his staff questions like:  “What is the first feeling you have when you check your school email?,” “Have the number of emails you receive decreased?” and “Is the quality of emails better?”

Thanks, Noah, for breaking it down like this for us!  With a few shared expectations, solid training and vigilant follow-up, we can all collectively Tame the Email Beast.

Please pass these ideas on to your school leader, grade-team head or department chair! And good luck!